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Board of Directors

  • Tung Bach Ly, Interim Chairman
  • Diana Pei Wu, Ph.D., Board Member
  • Cassandra Tran, Board Member
  • Mike Trong Nguyen, J.D., Secretary
  • Nailah Ricco, J.D., Board Member
  • Mimi-Cristien Nguyen, Board Member
  • Thandor Miller, Board Member
  • Tom Costanza, Board Member

VAYLA TEAM

Minh Nguyen        /     Founder & Executive Director

Minhnguyen@vayla-no.org

Minh Nguyen is the Founder and Executive Director of VAYLA New Orleans, Board Member of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadian, Second Vice Chair of the Asian Pacific American Society of New Orleans, and 2013 Inaugural Fellow of the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute. Since 2006, Minh has dedicated his life to building a new kind of home for New Orleanians, one that honors that right and power of local residents, young and old, to determine the future of their own neighborhoods. As the Executive Director of VAYLA, Minh has dedicated his work to creating space and leveraging resources to build the capacity of youth, their families, and supporting community members to lead and influence policies, practices and procedures within the public education and health sectors. Through his leadership, Minh has successfully brought together African-American, Vietnamese, Latino and Caucasian community members to take collective action and determine and the future outcomes of their community. His long-term advocacy and organizing efforts have invigorated political energy of New Orleanians through uniting residents under the common goals of taking local control over their schools and city governance structures.

Minh graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a double major in management and marketing. His leadership as a student includes his services as the External Vice President of the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Association (UNAVSA) and the Executive Director of the UNAVSA Fourth Annual North American Vietnamese Student Conference.

 

Erica Buher     /     Program Director

Erica@vayla-no.org

Erica Buher joined VAYLA in October 2012 as the Youth Development Coordinator. Prior to this, Erica worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate, focusing on foreign relations, homeland security, and defense.  Erica became passionate about social justice as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in African Studies and Political Science.  She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for ATRAVES, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Barrio Camilo Ortega, an impoverished neighborhood in Managua, Nicaragua.

In this capacity, she supports the Margaret Xuan Dung Fellowship program and VAYLA’s Organizing Training Institute.

Erica’s other passions include Paulo Freire, baked goods, and puppies.

 

Dianna Hong     /     Administrative Director

English Second Language (ESL) Program
Citizenship Class

Hong@vayla-no.org

Dianna H. Nguyen has lived in New Orleans for the last 39 years. Her family was one of the first Vietnamese families to reside in New Orleans in 1975 after the Vietnam War. She joined VAYLA as an administrator in 2011.
Not only is Dianna a dedicated staff member overseeing the administrative area of VAYLA but she also supports the adult ESL and Citizenship Class.

Dianna is really passionate about the academic success of all our youth. She is very attentive during our after school academic support and often works with teachers and principals to ensure that all our youth are successful in school.

 

Huong Nguyen     /      Media & Outreach Coordinator

VAYLA’s Vlog
VAYLA’s Social Media + website
Media Inquiries
Volunteer Opportunities/ Cultural Events
VAYLA Social: Youth Sports Tournament & Entertainment Showcase

Huongnguyen@vayla-no.org

Huong Nguyen became a member of VAYLA New Orleans in 2006 and became a staff in 2008. She was born and raised in New Orleans East, Louisiana. She graduated from the University of New Orleans in May 2012, where she majored in Business Marketing.

She is the Founder and Program Coordinator of the Young Womyn’s Leadership Program (YWLP), which seeks to provide a safe space for young womyn that supports the development of healthy coping skills, enhanced self esteem and increases their intellectual, civic, and social skills.  She inititaed the first young womyn’s flag football team in New Orleans East.  At VAYLA, Huong is also responsible for VAYLA’s cultural programming, which sustains VAYLA’s mission of cultural enrichment and serves as a mechanism to recruit new members and develop them as leaders.  The coordinator also collaborates with the Administrative Director on VAYLA’s payroll and financial management.

Huong was awarded the 2009 Service Leader/Youth Ally Change Maker Award from the Gulfsouth Youth Action Corps and she was also the 2nd Runner Up in the 2009 ASPIRE Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. From VAYLA, she received the ‘Most Valuable Player – Womyn’s Flag Football Award’ in July 2009 and the ‘Seeds of Hope Award’ in May 2011.

Huong enjoys sharing her food favorites, pomegranates and homemade kale chips, with the young people.

 

Leah Effron     /     Youth Development Coordinator

Youth Leadership Summer Program
Family Circle / Young Womyn’s Leaderhip Program/ Youth QUEST
Reproductive Justice Program

Leah@vayla-no.org

Leah oversees educational and health programming at VAYLA. She supports community members in defining and achieving their academic and career goals through one-on-one meetings about resume building and applications, partnerships with universities, and program development within VAYLA. She supports VAYLA’s Peer to Peer Support Programs including Family Circle, Young Womyn’s Leadership Program, Youthquest, and Young Men’s Rising. Leah also directs VAYLA’s Summer Leadership Program, a five-week leadership development and community organizing initiative.

Leah graduated from Tufts University in Massachusetts where she studied Community Health, Child Development, and Leadership Studies. Before VAYLA, Leah worked in school gardens and on farms, as well as with the PACT Project, dedicated to providing supportive services to those with HIV/AIDs.

Leah loves to cook vegetable-filled meals, go for long walks, and be with friends.

 

Rachel Kipnes / Education Program Coordinator

Academic Support

Rachel@vayla-no.org

Rachel recently joined the VAYLA community in September 2014, as the Education Program Coordinator. Rachel provides organizing support for the pre-existing and future community organizing campaigns at VAYLA. She is excited to learn alongside community members, both youth and adults, as we build skills and strategies for the continuing success of our programs here at VAYLA. Rachel also provides academic support after school and will help with Spanish for events and homework help.

Prior to arriving at VAYLA, Rachel worked with Inland Congregations United for Change, a PICO National Network member, supporting community campaigns for college readiness and language accessibility in local schools. In 2013, she graduated from Pitzer College (just outside of Los Angeles, Ca) with a degree in International and Intercultural studies and spent her last few years as an intern at the school’s Center for Community Engagement. Rachel loves being outside in the sun, cooking and eating yummy foods with good friends, and watching funny movies.

Rachel is excited to be working at VAYLA through AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

 

Myron Miller / Youth Staff

Reed Renaissance 

Myron@vayla-no.org

Myron is a senior at Sarah T. Reed High School in New Orleans East. 

Myron has played a central role in the Raise Your Hand Campaign with the creation of Reed Renaissance, an initiative aimed at keeping Sarah. T. Reed High School open. Myron is dedicated to ensuring that students have a voice in the governance of their school and their city. Myron likes to think of himself as very helpful, hands on, and a motivational speaker. Myron also loves soccer and kickball.

He firmly believes “A good leader shows you how to climb the latter but a great leader shows you what wall to put it on.”

 

Emmanuel Chavez / Youth Staff

Environmental Justice
Immigration Work

Emmanuel@vayla-no.org

He’s fresher than Will Smith.

Emmanuel is an undocumented youth that has been living in New Orleans for the past 9 years of his life. He became involved with VAYLA in 2012 with YOU2 (youth organizing for unity 2) doing language access work with the school system. Over the years, Emmanuel has grown his leadership skills and is looking to further strengthened the Latino voice in his community, keep fighting for language access and continuing the environmental work that helped create VAYLA.

Aside from fight for social justice and equality, Emmanuel also enjoys spending time with friends ,watching movies and anime, playing video games and skating. If you ever need help Emmanuel is sure to help.

 

Mars Nguyen / Youth Staff

Ride To Success
General Meetings

Mars@vayla-no.org

Mars joined VAYLA as a member in 2012 and became a youth staff in 2015. He was born in Fountain Valley, California but was raised in New Orleans East. He is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Orleans.

Mars is a Founder and the Lead Organizer of Ride to Success (RTS), VAYLA’s transportation campaign, which seeks to make the RTA, New Orleans public transit system, more reliable, safe, more efficient, and more accessible. He also works on General Meetings, which makes sure that the members of VAYLA stayed informed of events going on in VAYLA and let the members have a voice in the decision making process. He also supports VAYLA-NO’s Environmental Justice Campaign, Academic Support, Family Circle, and Reproductive Justice Program.

His other interests are playing guitar/piano, breaking/break dancing, playing games, reading books and manga, and watching anime.

 

Juan Fortanel / Youth Staff

Language Access
Education Work

Juan@vayla-no.org

Juan has been a member of VAYLA since 2011 and was one of the founding members of YOU2.

Since then, he has worked on a report illustrating the stories of the Latino and Vietnamese community and a complaint against schools across the city wanting them to have a language access system in play for ELL students. Juan has also worked on environmental justice work, as well as supporting with the visioning process for Sarah T. Reed and the transportation access for Benjamin Franklin High School. He has also travelled across the country to represent his community that is embedded within himself. On top of this, Juan is also a member of Rethink’s Food Justice Collective, a collaboration between Rethink and VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative that aims to build a multi-racial and multilingual youth organizer cohort to deepen understanding of food justice by exploring intersecting histories of land access and food systems.

Juan loves fruits, plays some video games, and wants to film beaucoup videos.

 

Marissa Okazaki / Seeding Change Fellow

Marissa@vayla-no.org

Marissa recently joined VAYLA as the Seeding Change Fellow for Summer 2015. Originally hailing from Mililani, HI, Marissa moved to California to pursue her undergraduate degree at Scripps College and majored in Asian Studies. During her time at Scripps, Marissa was an active member of the Asian American Student Union (AASU), the Asian American Sponsor Program (AASP), and indigeNation. She hopes to building upon those experiences through her work with VAYLA and is excited to learn from everyone here.

At VAYLA, Marissa will be working on supporting the campaigns and projects of other youth organizers. She believes in the power of youth from New Orleans East and is committed to making their visions a reality.

Marissa loves trying new foods, playing video games, and bonding with cats.

 

Kelvin Arzu / Youth Leader

 Summer Training Institute

Kelvin@vayla-no.org

Kelvin Arzu was born raised in New York, New York.

He’s worked at VAYLA for almost a year and is a graduate from High school (2014)
Kelvin is a highly active youth leader at VAYLA. He spends most of his time working on the park campaign.

Kelvin is not a talented person. He’s an extremely skilled person and can do anything he sets his mind to. His achievements have been being a leader in his debate team in high school, while also being a leader in the basketball court as the point guard. His goals in life is to make the world a better place in any possible way he can.

He loves to play basketball, Halo Reach, with animals, HAVING FUN!!

 

Kevin Nguyen / Youth Leader

 Summer Training Institute

Kevin@vayla-no.org

Kevin Nguyen was born on April 14, 1998 in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in a town across Lake Pontchatrain, called Slidell. In July 2014 he became a member of VAYLA and since then has volunteered and performed at events such as VAYLA Social Entertainment Showcase and VAYLA Tết Celebration.

His leadership experience includes working with the Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) program and has facilitated a focus group for YPAR. Additionally, he has been nominated for Scientific Leaders of America Program. Kevin is an honor roll student at Northshore High School and his extra-curricular activities include Beta Club, Math Counts, and volunteering at Boo at the Zoo.

Seeing the happiness in the Youth makes Kevin smile. He plans to support VAYLA in any way he can, and hopes that the Youth will be motivated to help the community and express their emotions through dance.

Kevin’s passions include dancing, volunteering, and cooking.

 

 

Kendrick Pounds / Youth Leader

 Summer Training Institute

Kendrick@vayla-no.org

Kendrick Pounds was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and was raised in the 8th ward. He attends McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School, class of 2017.

He is a youth leader and member of Vayla New Orleans. He have been with Vayla since the Summer of 2014. He helped out in many different campaign at Vayla.

Soccer is his favorite sport to play. He says he is “madly in love with pineapples and of course his girlfriend”. Not only is he a honor roll student, but his personality defines him, mostly. He agrees that violence isn’t always the key, but sometimes necessary. His grandma means the world to him because he’s a grandma’s boy.